Listed sixth in the Lonely Planet’s Guide to the Natural Wildlife Spectacles of the world, the ‘Gathering’ is the largest assembling of Asian Elephants at any given time. Jetwing Vil Uyana offers guests the opportunity of witnessing this unique phenomenon by conducting elephant watching safaris into the Minneriya National Park. Situated in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, the centre piece of the park is the Minneriya Tank which is surrounded by varied habitats of wetlands, grasslands and scrub jungle.
During the dry season from the months of May to October, the water levels in the reservoir begin to recede exposing fresh shoots of grass on which the elephants love to graze. Herds of wild elephants from all over the North Central Province of the island ‘gather’ at the tank to socialize, bathe, feed and possibly mate. The Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka offers excellent opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to observe the social dynamics and natural behaviour of these majestic creatures at close range. Onlookers will have the chance of watching large bulls competing among themselves and seeking out females in the herd, calves at play, or the blissful joy of an elephant immersed in water. As many as 300 elephants may be observed in a single safari as different herds join up to form large, loose-knit associations. Other inhabitants of the park include the Purple Faced Langur and Toque Macaque, buffaloes, spotted deer, jackals, crocodiles and water monitors, and if lucky one might see a leopard or a sloth bear. Over 160 species of birds have made their home in the sanctuary making it a bird watcher’s paradise.
The Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks are 30 – 40 km away, making it a one hour drive from the hotel. The excursion begins after lunch at 14.30 hours and lasts for five hours. Guests will be provided with a water bottle, binoculars, transport, park entrance fee, jeep hire and a fresh fruit juice on return to the hotel. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and remember to carry your sunglasses, cameras, spotting scopes, field guides, insect repellent and sun block with you.